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Issue #664: April 12-18, 2020

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Q: The following message sometimes appears on my computer screen when I’m searching for something: “A script on this page may be busy, or it may be stopped responding. You can stop the script now, or you can continue to see if the script continues.” What is this message all about? What is a “script” anyhow?

– George C.
Mary Esther, Florida

A: It makes more sense to me to answer your last question first, George.  That will provide the context for the answers to your other questions.

The “script” in question is a subroutine, perhaps even an entire program that is written in a language called JavaScript and is embedded in a web page.  It is a method that web designers use to create pages that contain decision points and dynamically updated content.  Compare this to pages that use only Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).  Such pages are static, which is to say that they contain a single, unchanging depiction that displays the same to every user.  JavaScript allows content to be tailored to individual users so each person receives a personalized page.

You may have heard of another language for developing web applications called Java.  Do not confuse JavaScript and Java – they are in no way related to each other.  One is not a subset of the other, and they are not even published by the same company.  JavaScript runs only within a web browser, while Java is used to create applications that run within a Java virtual machine framework.  As you might expect from its name, JavaScript is a scripting language.  The browser in which it is running interprets each line it as it executes.  Java, on the other hand, is compiled, which is an engineering term that means converted from human-readable text into computer code.  In Java, there is no interpreting at run-time, so it is faster, but it requires a dedicated Java framework in which to execute.  If you want to learn more about the difference between Java and JavaScript, check out TinyURL.com/IGTM-0664.

Now that you understand that a script is a little program that is running inside of a web page, perhaps that message makes more sense?  It is telling you that whatever JavaScript program is embedded in the web page you’re viewing is has encountered some sort of error.  Perhaps it has entered an infinite loop, or is processing data (“may be busy”) or maybe it has crashed altogether (“stopped responding”).  The prompt is asking you to make a decision on how you want to handle this issue.

Depending on exactly what is causing the message, there are ramifications either way.  If you tell it to stop, you might see an incomplete page, because the script was not allowed to finish executing.  On the other hand, if you tell it to continue, and the script is endlessly looping or has crashed, it’s going to simply do nothing, and you’re going to be waiting for a finish that never comes. While you wait, your browser might run out of memory and crash, so be wise in your use of this option.

I doubt there is anything irreplaceable on a given web page, so probably the best course of action is to stop the script, close the browser, and try again.  If the problem persists, there might actually be an error in the JavaScript that is driving that page.  Unless you’re the author of the page, there’s nothing you can do to fix that.

If you want to be really Geeky, there are ways to see exactly what’s causing the problem.  To learn more, follow the steps shown at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0664a

Stay safe, my Geeks!  Remember we’re all in this together!

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